CAIRO: Roz Savage rows the ocean blue for a green cause” is a headline likely to breed an “Oh my God, another crazy person” reaction from many around the world, and particularly in Egypt.
But for two Egyptian 20-some-year-old rowers, thousands of miles away, Savage’s voyage across the Atlantic struck a slightly different chord.
“She had this boat, she slept on, didn’t throw in an anchor; she had solar panels on the boat to heat water; she grew plants on the boat… [it’s] a mentality out of this world… [I thought] why can’t I do something like that,” said Aly Morad, a petroleum and energy engineering junior at the American University in Cairo who is both a rower and a kayaker.
Morad and Salah El Din Helmy, rower/kayaker and friend of five years, plan to kayak from Aswan to Alexandria in 27 days to raise awareness about water resources in Egypt.
On Jan. 1, 2011, Morad and Helmy will drive south to the High Dam, their kayaks bundled up on their car. They will hit water in their 40 cm wide kayaks, treading 50 km a day in a total of six hours.
To avoid kayaking at night, they will split up the distance into two daily intervals, one in the morning and the other during the afternoon. The plan is to kayak for six days straight then take one day for a complete rest.
While the duo plan to be on wet land only six hours of day, the remaining time will be spent on dry land, in tents or hostels, resting and hopefully chronicling their trip on their a yet-to-be-set-up blog.
But what’s the message?
A professional rower and former member of the national team, Morad has long fancied a long trip up the Nile.
“It started out purely as a sport,” said Morad, whose passion for a better Egypt kicked in as another driving force for this adventure.
“Besides the personal achievement, I wish that what I am doing will make a difference, that it would change how people think, even if it’s a small difference … and that step by step they [Egyptians] feel for more issues,” explained Morad.
“[I wish] that people conserve water and not pollute it. This would directly affect me,” he added, pointing to his daily encounter with the dirty water of the Nile.
A rower of only five years, to Helmy, both the message of their journey and the personal challenge are what led him to take part.
“I hope that after this people will stop throwing waste in the Nile,” said the 21-year-old marketing graduate.
On regular training seasons, Morad rows around 160 km a week, much less than what he projects for himself during the upstream voyage.
“I am very scared that the distance turns up to be too big. I am worried of fatigue,” he said.
But with their coach on their side, both Morad and Helmy are determined to gain the endurance required to make it to the finish line.
From last May and up to the end of this year, the duo are undergoing nine training sessions a week, split up between the morning and afternoon, with each lasting about three hours. Sessions include running, biking, weight lifting as well as kayaking short distances.
Kayaking is an explosive sport, where races are comprised of small distanced covered in minimum time. However, for the purpose of their journey, the focus is on toning the speed down and pushing up fortitude, maintaining a “smooth curve” until the big date.
“It’s like taking a sprinter and having them run a marathon,” Morad explained.
Aside from receiving sufficient training, Morad and Helmy are rallying to sponsors to fund their dream trip. Ideally, a car equipped with food, tents and a team of two supporters will drive along with the kayakers.
“If we get the support we need, we will be able to do it,” said Helmy.
Morad said the they hope to split the trip into five focal intervals, Aswan to Luxor, Luxor to Sohag, Sohag to El-Menya, El-Menya to Cairo, and finally, Cairo to Alexandria.
“Rowing in the Nile, through all of Egypt, means that I care for all of Egypt and not just one part of it,” Morad said about their choice of route.
In the Nile, it’ll be easy to spot a speeding kayak, a sight not common in Egypt, and that’s how they hope to raise awareness.
“I’m hoping to turn heads,” said Morad.
Morad attributes his choice of rowing to his grandfather, a 1966 Olympic champion of the same sport. But what started off as a mere weekly activity is soon turning into a once in a life time adventure, and Morad is already eyeing the finish line.
“What I picture is coming into Cairo and how big of a party it is going to be. … This is going to be awesome,” he said.
Morad and Helmy in training.